Vicky Ford, one of your local MEPs was finding out firsthand how EU policy impacts on those involved with the fish business in Lowestoft. Vicky was keen to hear how the current quota system impacts on the area's fishermen and discussing what they would like to see coming out of the new proposed legislation for the Common Fisheries Policy which will be announced on the 24th May.
"I heard that currently it is not possible for a man with a boat to make a living out of being a fisher. I saw a catch of Skate which was one night's work, for which the fisher would have received £250 – but this was his entire quota for the month! A worrying side effect of this is that boats are now putting out to sea with just one man on board – I was told it was only a matter of time before this already depleted workforce lost a friend at sea."
"There are various options on the table for changing the existing system which sees millions of dead fish thrown back into the sea as discards - this has to change.
"One of the major concerns was that the complicated calculations needed to run a credits based quota model would not work for a fishing community such as this one. This is simply too much paperwork for the boats here which are 10 metres or under and are used for line fishing by just a crew of one or two fisher. Interestingly this size boat makes up 80% of our fishing fleet and yet has less than 3% of the quota.
Sam Cole and Mark Jermy of Sam Cole's Food Group showed Vicky around their state of the art Cold Store which was partly funded with an £800,000 grant from the EU. Sam said that Cod was currently being flown into Humberside from Iceland and transported to them, when there were decent Cod stocks just one mile off the coast.
"It was pointed out to me that the current system could be likened to a farmer having to put his fields to set aside, ie not being allowed to farm them, only to find a French farmer had turned up and was farming them himself.
The final point I found incredulous was that these men, working up to 14 hour days had calculated that the officials present on a morning in Lowestoft fish market earned more than the combined income of all the fishermen they were there to monitor. Two Marine Management Officers, one or two Environmental Health Officers, one Health and Safety Officer plus an occasional Customs officer for good measure. With their proposed days at sea quota the bureaucracy, personnel and as such the costs for the industry could be significantly reduced.
It seems to me that a good application of common sense needs to be applied and that listening to those in the industry is vital. I will take my findings back to Brussels and fight my own fish fight to get a fair deal for these fishermen."
My Political Priorities
Economic Stability must come first. Without a strong economy we can not deliver a strong society. I work with businesses and consumers to keep Britain open for business, cutting red tape, boosting trade opportunities and helping to deliver jobs and growth for all.
I support Science and Research which is key to delivering better medical care, healthy food as well as the Innovation and Creative Industries which bring improved lifestyles for all our families.
Strong home Security is vital in today's uncertain world, which requires robust policing and defence and deep international relationships that we can depend on. I work with others to achieve this.
I care about the Countryside and the Environment and making sure that rural and urban communities flourish.